Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: A prologue

So here we are, already eight days into July. And if all had gone according to plan, I would be preparing to attend the first day of Ottawa’s Bluesfest tomorrow. I would be packing a change of clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, probably a rain poncho, my camera, and my festival pass in my satchel, all to bring with me to work so I could head on down to the festival grounds right afterwards. I would probably be planning on which brewery to stop in at beforehand, something I’d been doing with more and more regularity, ever since the festival had adopted Molson and its overpriced cans of macro beer as a sponsor. The excitement would be palpable and my wife would likely be rolling her eyes and preparing to be without her husband for a week and a half…

But alas…

A few weeks after the festival lineup was released to great excitement (Alanis Morissette! Rage against the Machine!) and tickets went on sale, COVID-19 was announced as a worldwide pandemic and a threat to public safety in Canada. Everything was shut down. Concert tours and music festivals around the world were being cancelled. Bluesfest’s organizers held out for as long as they could, hoping against hope that things would clear up, and that the show could still go on. At the end of April, they pulled the plug, offering refunds or the option to transfer tickets to the following year, for which many of the very same exciting acts had already been confirmed. Of course, it was disappointing at the time, albeit completely understandable, and today, on the eve of what would’ve been the opening day, there’s more than a bit of a heavy heart in my chest.

The first time I attended the festival was back in 2009 and I have seen amazing sets at ten different editions of Bluesfest over the years. So what I thought I’d do for the next week and a half was to share photos and words from ten of my favourite sets from over the years, one for each day on which the festival would have taken place. Of course, I have already shared some great Bluesfest sets on these pages that likely would’ve been included. I won’t share them again but if you want whet your appetite for live show photos, you can click on the links below for those posts.

Father John Misty on the River Stage – Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Camera Obscura on the River Stage – Friday, July 5th, 2013

The Specials on the Claridge Homes Stage – Monday, July 8th, 2013

July Talk on the River Stage – Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Decemberists on the Claridge Stage – Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Are you ready now? Good! For the next eleven days (the festival always takes one day off after the first weekend for rest), I’ll be sharing a handful of photos, some thoughts, and where possible, the set list (thank you setlist.fm) for ten of my favourite Bluesfest sets. Grab your sunscreen, earplugs, favourite beverage, and let’s get ready to rock.

Live music galleries: Hopped and Confused festival 2019

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

The Hopped and Confused stage

Artists: Nobro, Alexandria Maillot, Weaves, July Talk, Taylor Knox, Cleopatrick, Born Ruffians, …
When: August 23rd and 24th, 2019
Where: Mill Street Brewery, Ottawa
Some words: If you’ve scrolled through any of my feeds on the various social media sites and apps out there, you may have noticed that, as well as being a fool for music (and vinyl collecting), I am also a card carrying Beer Enthusiast. So when you pair the two and call it a festival, as the good folks at Mill Street Brewery have done, you can bet that I would be interested. In fact, it is only by mere chance, and by chance I mean bad luck*, that it took until its fourth year running that I would finally get out to experience the Hopped and Confused festival.

With two excellent headliners this year, I took advantage of the two-day pass for an affordable $65 and was treated to an almost flawlessly run festival, mostly sunny skies, delicious beers, between set entertainment provided by local alternative radio station Live 88.5, and eight excellent and varied Canadian indie rock acts.

It all kicked off with Nobro, a Montreal-based four-piece punk rock act, or as frontwoman Kathryn McCaughey called them, “chicks who like to shred”. They were followed by a lovely set by singer/songwriter Alexandria Maillot and then, art-popsters, Weaves. The first evening was capped by the push/pull, he said/she said, Toronto rockers, July Talk, and the crowed they drew was quite eye-opening to me. Good for them indeed.

Day two started off with the power pop indie rock of Taylor Knox. Coburg, Ontario’s Cleopatrick then knocked everyone’s socks off with a blistering set that seemed way more gigantic than two people should be able to produce. Then, well, Born Ruffians were once again so excellent live, I had myself wondering why I didn’t have more of their albums.

I’m stopping there but if you’ve been counting, you might have noticed that there’s one act missing. I’m saving that one for tomorrow… Oh, and apologies for the blurriness of some of the photos but it was also a beer festival after all.

Point of reference song:Paper girl” by July Talk

Kathryn McCaughey, Sarah Dion, and Lisandre Bourdages of Nobro
Karolane Carbonneau of Nobro
Alexandria Maillot
Jasmyn Burke and Spencer Cole of Weaves
DJ Noel of Live 88.5 keeping the crowd pumped between sets
The Mills Street Brewpub on day two, before all the crowds descended
Taylor Knox
Luke Gruntz and Ian Fraser of Cleopatrick
Born Ruffians
Steve Hamelin of Born Ruffians
Luke Lalonde and Mitch Derosier of Born Ruffians
Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay of July Talk
Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay of July Talk
July Talk

* I even had tickets to last year’s event but came down with a wicked case of the man cold the day of the event.

Live music galleries: July Talk [2014]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

July Talk live at Ottawa Bluesfest in 2014

Artist: July Talk
When: July 11th, 2014
Where: River Stage, Ottawa Blues Fest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: I finally got to see the Toronto-based indie rock band, July Talk, a couple of years after the release of their debut, self-titled album. By this time, they had built up a following and quite a bit of buzz on backs of their live show and unique sound. You might notice that the majority of the photos here focus on the principal vocalists Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis and this is because when seeing them live, it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off them. On the record, their vocals play off one another, his rough-hewn and hers angelic pop and live the two of them played the Mars versus Venus game right to the end. Fun, fun show.
Point of reference song: Paper girl

Peter Dreimanis of July Talk
Ian Docherty of July Talk
Leah Fay of July Talk
Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay of July Talk
Leah Fay of July Talk and some random fan